Is Self Care Selfish?
Updated: Apr 12
Have you struggled with guilt or other obstacles around self care? I* certainly have.
Before we dive into why that happens and how we can overcome it, let’s define what self care is more clearly. You may find the concept of self care confusing at first - I did.
We see self care touted everywhere. And I believe that the self care movement we are collectively experiencing is beautiful. We do need to take better care of ourselves. But I think we as a society get it wrong. I often see self care heralded as pampering ourselves with beauty treatments and vacations. I love massages and facials and travel. Those things are lovely ways to care for myself. But they are not the core of my self care. And they are a privilege that not everyone has available to them. And when we misinterpret self care as mostly pampering, we increase the likelihood of dismissing it as a wellness practice for those who have more money, more time, and less responsibility than we do. Everyone needs self care, and nobody more so than the people without “enough” money or time.
So if self care is not pampering, then what is it? My definition of self care is: a set of habits, practiced diligently, that transform you day by day into the person you are meant to be, and magnifies your ability to add value to the lives of others.
Longish definition, I know. Each part felt vital to me:
A set of habits (adapted to your needs over time)
Practiced (we get better at it by doing)
Diligently (consistency is key)
That transform you day by day (we evolve)
Into the person you are meant to be (our true divine potential)
And magnifies your ability to add value to the lives of others (because ultimately, we are on this planet to serve others)
So then, self care is essential if we have a desire to expand, and grow, and show up bigger in the world.
However, for so many, of us, there are obstacles to self care. In my experience, some of these obstacles are linked to limiting beliefs, usually developed early in life, that we can overcome. Often when I would care for myself, or plan to do so, I would feel guilt and have thoughts in opposition to what I was trying to do. Over time, I realized a few things that helped me:
Just because I have a thought, that doesn’t mean it’s true. (This blew my mind! I was operating for so long as if every thought I had - especially the harsh ones - was true.)
With time and consistency I can rewire my brain and create new beliefs which lead to new thoughts which lead to new actions. Using essential oils** is a super easy way to help me accelerate and enhance that process.
In consistently caring for myself and looking out for my best interests, the oppositional thoughts lessen (but don’t necessarily disappear) and more importantly, my growing love for myself means I begin to look out for my best interests anyway.
Let’s examine some of these thoughts:
Thoughts of indulgence - “I’m being selfish/spoiled/bratty/acting like a rich girl.” “Who do I think I am?”
Core limiting beliefs - I am not worthy of self care. Self care is only for certain people.
What constitutes self care will vary from person to person - it’s what helps ME transform into the person I am meant to be and magnifies MY ability to add value to the lives of others. One thing to consider is my family culture around self care. Was it modeled for me? Did I see adults taking care of themselves? Was this dependent on gender roles? Was it seen as indulgent? How did my family describe people who prioritize their self care?
Am I perpetuating false beliefs that self care is only for indulgent or selfish people?
If I am actually misappropriating my resources, spending more money than I have, or using my time carelessly, how can I be more intentional about using my resources wisely?
What can help:
Use bergamot essential oil. Inhale,diffuse, and/or apply over heart daily and affirm “I love and accept myself.” “I respect myself.” “I am worthy of goodness.”
Thoughts of scarcity - “I’m taking time from my kids/partner/family.” “I can’t, they need me.” “Who is going to make breakfast if I’m busy?” “I can’t make it to the gym so I will just do nothing.”
Core limiting beliefs - There’s never enough time/energy/money. Life is a struggle. I have to do everything myself.
Our time is one of the few resources we own for ourselves. Do I treat time as a communal resource instead of an individual one? While I can choose to spend time contributing communally, time is actually an individual resource. Think of a communal resource you have in your family - say, laundry detergent. You might feel bad if you used 10 times your normal amount of laundry detergent without replenishing it, leaving none for everyone else. We often treat time this way. But time isn’t like laundry detergent or toilet paper. It’s more like air. Do you hold your breath around your family, afraid to inhale what is rightfully theirs? Of course not, because you know there is enough air for everyone. And if you were to stop breathing, you’d be unable to contribute to their lives in meaningful ways. Time for self care is like air - you aren’t taking from anyone else, and by using it, you are actually able to show up for your family fully oxygenated instead of unconscious.
How was time seen in your family of origin? Was there a lot of hustle and bustle and rush? What was prioritized?
Do I use feeling overly responsible or believing that I have to do everything myself to justify self neglect?
What can help - Use wild orange essential oil by inhaling, diffusing, and/or applying over sacral chakra and repeat the affirmation “I have all the time I need.” Alternatively, use arborvitae and repeat “I trust that I am divinely supported.”
Achievement focused thoughts - “It’s a waste of time.” “I have so much I need to get done.” “I haven’t done anything to deserve this.” “I’ll take care of myself after I get A,B, and C done.”
Core limiting belief - My worth comes from what I accomplish. I have to struggle for everything I get.
Things to consider:
Do I feel guilty because self care doesn’t necessarily produce immediate “results” as I am accustomed to measuring in an achievement based colonized society? Was there a big focus on achievement and results in my upbringing? Do I want to carry that with me?
Do I feel I have to “earn” self care through achievement? If that belief is hard to kick, consider caring for a baby or toddler, and depriving them of food, sleep, or cuddles until they learned enough new skills that day. If that sounds ridiculous to me, why do I apply that standard to myself?
Is self care triggering guilt because I'm treating it as another task on the to do list - a checkbox to fill instead of a way to nurture myself? If self care feels less like care and more like another way to berate myself - for example, I don’t complete the challenge on my Apple Watch or FitBit and I feel like a failure, I can consider shifting self care from my mental to do list to being one of my core activities, like eating and breathing. Remove the focus on achievement. Try shifting, for example, from 10,000 steps a day to daily movement that nurtures - which could be any number of steps that feels nurturing that day.
What can help - Inhale or diffuse rose essential oil or apply over heart and repeat affirmation “I am worthy of love and care just as I am.”
Thoughts based on weak boundaries - “My kids/partner/family will be upset if I take time for this.” “I’m afraid of their reactions if I start doing more for myself.”
Core limiting belief - I’m responsible for everyone else and their care and happiness. I am a victim. I am stuck.
Things to consider:
Are the people in my inner circle supportive of me? Is my anxiety over their possible reaction based on prior experience?
Have I taught my loved ones by example that I don’t have boundaries? What conversations do I need to have with them as I implement my self care?
Do I derive my self worth based on how valuable I am to other people? Am I overly giving of my time and energy so others will value me?
What was my example of boundary setting growing up? For example, were the women in my family martyr mothers? Is there a family expectation of self sacrifice?
What can help - Inhale or diffuse coriander essential oil and/or apply over solar plexus or on feet and affirm “I am true to myself.” Diffuse clove essential oil or dilute and apply over the lower abdomen and affirm “I have clear boundaries.”
As we implement and expand our self care habits, we heal the rift of distrust and betrayal so many of us have with ourselves. In relationships, when we betray the best interests of loved ones over and over, we lose their trust. The same applies to ourselves. Many of us have not looked out for our best interests for so long, and it will take time to heal that. Have faith and hope! That bond of trust with self is life changing. Self care is how we deepen our self love, which in turn expands our capacity to do all we desire.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Share your comments and questions.
*As with everything I share, I am not an expert. I am simply a woman on her own healing journey sharing my ever deepening and expanding Truth.
**My suggestions and recommendations are based on doTERRA essential oils. Here's why.